Stormy Friday is an internationally recognized speaker in facility management, is Chair of the ProFMI Commission, and has served on the IFMA Board of Directors and the BOMI International Board of Trustees, Stan Mitchell is CEO of Key Facilities Management International and a recognized pioneer in the development of FM as a professional discipline worldwide, and Kylash Ramesh serves as a Management Analyst in the Division of Facilities Operations & Maintenance at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. In April 2020, Mike Petrusky had the chance to ask each of these FM leaders questions about the COVID-19 crisis when he hosted the sold-out, one-hour ProFM Town Hall event called “Short and Long-Term Implications of the Pandemic on Facility Management”. They discussed the immediate impact the coronavirus lockdown has had on jobs, shared highlights of the unsung heroes of facility management, provided advice on how to handle the re-opening of facilities, and they looked ahead to the lasting effect of the pandemic on facility management.

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Kylash (00:02):

There’s a lot of decisions that have to be made. And you can imagine that, if you had a good underlying technology infrastructure with good data sets, standards, business rules, some of this data gathering that everyone now needs to go through is going to be easier for some organizations rather than others.

Mike (00:19):

This is the Workplace Innovator podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience focused IWMS software that delivers real time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

            Hi there, everyone, and welcome to episode 107 of the Workplace Innovator podcast. My name is Mike, and I hope you are staying well, as we continue on this journey together. And hey, have you been a part of our weekly live stream discussions yet? It’s your chance to ask the questions of my guests in real time. So I hope that you will take a moment and visit, sign up, and plan to join us for the live version of this show, Wednesdays at noon Eastern time.

            With that said, on this week’s podcast, I wanted to share with you an excerpt from a recent conversation I had with three amazing facility management leaders. I was honored to be invited to host a town hall meeting put on by Randy Olson and the team behind the ProFM Credential. And it was a round table discussion titled, Short and Longterm Implications of the Pandemic on Facility Management. And it featured a panel of ProFMI Commission members, some friends of mine, Stormy Friday and Stan Mitchell. And I met for the first time Kylash Ramesh. They all shared their views on how the COVID-19 crisis has been impacting the built environment Over the past few months. They shared stories of the unsung FM heroes, some of whom have been working the front lines during this pandemic in medical facilities and hospitals, including helping those here in the DC area at NIH where Kailash serves in the division of facilities, operations, and maintenance. His team actually cares for the workplace environment of Dr. Fauci and that team of scientists at NIH, which you see in the news all the time. And that’s just one of the amazing things I learned during our time together.

            So this webinar had 500 attendees. It was sold out. And I can tell you, as the host, there was a steady stream of questions that came in during the program. It was overwhelming for me almost, but this topic had certainly struck a chord with our FM community, and I know you will get some value from it as well. So today you will hear just one excerpt from this broadcast, kind of right in the middle. We had already gotten through some introductory commentary. And I wanted you to hear just a little bit of what Stan, Stormy, and Kailash had to share. And then at the end, I will share with you how you can watch the full one hour town hall recording. All right, sound good? So here we go.

            Stan, let me go back to you and talk about things reopening. It’s happening in Asia, it’s happening some of the original cities where the virus hit. And I know that from my conversations with folks in our industry, it’s the top concern right now, and we’re going to talk about it all. We’re going to talk about the protocols that need to be put into place, some practical advice. We’re not going to say we have all the answers here, folks, but we have an incredible panel of experienced professionals, who can speak to these questions you have and help you prepare, and then we’ll continue the conversation offline after this hour together.

            So, Stan, first thoughts about what FMS can do now to ensure a smooth transition.

Stan Mitchell (03:56):

Yeah, I feel that this is our big opportunity. Yeah, there are a lot of people who are managing, as has been said, our healthcare facilities, our care homes, et cetera, and our public transport systems, et cetera. And they are doing a fantastic job on our behalf. But I think the big opportunity for FM is coming, where we start to see light at the end of the tunnel, and start to look to remobilize the majority of the facilities. And I think that’s when our peers or our demand organizations that we all work for and support will be looking for professionalism. Will be looking for preparedness, because if any of us are out there without things to do, this is a great opportunity for the planning and preparing for what I believe should always be a four-phase strategy of remobilizing any facility.

            And the first phase in that is about a real audit. It’s not about the deep clean. I think that’s in phase two. But it’s about the facility audit and risk assessment of the implications, because remember, a pandemic such as this is not a one off event. Everybody’s predicting there will be a second wave of it. And by that time, we may well have started to reenter facilities that we manage and look after. So a facilities audit to look at all the implications of how we use our facilities, and how we can try and prepare and protect the people that come into those facilities from that second wave, and ending up back where we started. So for me, that plan is what FM is all about. It’s about being prepared. It’s about being proactive. And that is our big opportunity shine within the organizations that we serve, I believe.

Mike (06:00):

And Stormy, as we start talking about specific protocols, what are you hearing? What are you telling your clients when it comes to some of the practical implications of reopening facilities that have been closed for weeks and maybe months by the time, some in certain regions get back to work? And let’s just talk about the physical space at first, and then we’re going to get into this emotional concern and the need to help the people adjust. Because I think we’re all in a similar boat, as we’ve been awakened to the seriousness of this virus. And as Stan alluded to, it’s going to be with us for a long time, maybe a second wave of cases, but as we gradually reopen, and then we have decisions to make. What employees come back, who doesn’t, and then helping to address the individual needs for people, depending on the part of the world you’re in, the part of this country you’re in. So that’s a lot to throw at you, Stormy, but it’s all part of this planning that has to take place. What are your thoughts?

Stormy Friday (06:52):

I couldn’t agree with him more. And I think the first step we have to take is to stop calling it the new normal. It’s not the new normal. This is the new frontier, and it’s an entirely new landscape. There’s nothing going to be normal about it. And so what we plan for in the future is what we are going to be seeing, I think, that we have to deal with. And so as Stan indicated, we have to become indispensable. And we will be. And I think in addition to the risk assessment in the planning, we need to be doing posturing. We need to be preparing options for our senior executives. You talked about space, for example. We don’t know what space is going to be required. If we have rolling startups of businesses across the country, we may need to be prepared, as facility folks, to have people housed temporarily in different geographic locations, if they’re a clean site. And so, from a space standpoint, we need to be ready to make recommendations to those senior executives about how that would take place.

            And so the physical space is going to be something that’s going to be a moving target all of the time, I suspect, as the opening of the country occurs, and as we roll out where it’s going to be safe to be able to work. From a manufacturing standpoint, small businesses are the ones that are going to be hurt the most because they can’t ramp up until their employees can get back into their facilities. And so I think the space issue is going to be huge for us, but we need to be indispensable.

Mike (08:31):

And we’ll talk more about that, for sure. There’s a lot of questions coming in about practical application of space and how maybe we can use technology and automation to be prepared for the new frontier, as you call it. It is a paradigm shift, I read just the other day. This is not a new normal, or even getting back to normal, as you said. It’s something that’s significant for this and all generations to come.

            So Kylash, what’s the insight you share from the NIH now and the facilities in which you’re operating, and your team is operating. Are facilities professionals being given the supplies they need? I know there’s a lot of shortages early on about so many things around cleaning products, and germaphobes like me couldn’t get their hands on a bottle of Purell, unless they were willing to spend 500 dollars. So Kylash, what does it look like for you, in your particular facility? And is that something that you’re managing well?

Kylash Ramesh (09:19):

Yeah, absolutely. I think this all gets back to something Stan brought up earlier, which is if you had prepared for these types of events in the past and had gotten your risk management, planning, and assessment down, then you would be more prepared, maybe not fully prepared for this type of event. And having said that, we had these types of things in place. So from what I understand, we have been able to supply our facility staff with whatever level of protection they need to perform the new types of tasks we’re asking them to do.

            I do want to bring up some of the human sides of this topic or question, in the sense that I think the two biggest things we as FMs can do during this time is communicate, which is something we should always be doing. But in addition to that, is really staying flexible.

            So as Stan mentioned and Stormy, with the fact that this is an ever changing thing, and the demand organizations that we work for are figuring it out just as we’re figuring it out. So no one has this thing figured out, and we may get some type of guidance from our demand organizations that may change the next week. And it’s important for us as FMs to stay flexible and to expect those types of changes to be happening even faster than they have in the past, because we are really figuring this out on a day by day basis.

Mike (10:42):

Great points and great advice. Because it’s going to be a constant balancing act, the risk and the practical application. And there’s so many elements I could go with that question, but I want to go back to Stan because someone in the chat reminded me to remind you, Stan, that you mentioned there are four phases to getting back, and we only got the first one about audits and risk assessments. So what comes next?

Stan Mitchell (11:04):

Okay. When I talk about audit, most of us are focused on the cleanliness, the cleaning side of that needs to happen, but when you start to sit and think about it, it goes well beyond that. We need to think about our building systems, that for those facilities that are locked down right now, so you have air conditioning equipment, ventilation equipment that sitting potentially static, that’s allowing bacteria to breed. You have filtration systems that probably are going to need a very good change before you want to let anybody in the building. You have water systems for showers, example, that will need completely flushed through to avoid Legionella risks, et cetera, et cetera. That to me, is all about the audit. It’s about identifying what we need to do before we let anybody back into a building.

            The second phase for me is then go and do something about all of that. And Kailash was just talking about the doors. Today, you can get food handles to put on doors. So people don’t need to use door handles. There are simple things like that, that we can do, that will both try and avoid a problem, but also demonstrate who we are and why we’re there. We can look after these people, we can get the business and the organization mobilized as quickly as possible, but in a safe and proactive manner.

            For me, then, phase three is when we start the remobilization. And we started with caution because that second wave might come. It’s not a hard change. It’s got to be a soft reentry into the building. Some people I’ve seen are commenting on, do we still maintain social distancing, et cetera. And I think the smart thing to do is yes, to some degree, we do.

            And the phase four for me is, when we finally get back to the new normal, whatever that may be, and we don’t really know what that’s going to be. Because I think this experience for all of us today is changing what FM is all about, in the buildings and the facilities that we are there and responsible for.

Mike (13:23):

Wow. So much to think about. And we can’t get into all the details of all of that you just said there, Stan, but I’m sure Randy is preparing some links and some information from the ProFM community to offer up to the audience at the end of this webinar, to continue the conversation and resources that are available to help them answer the questions that you just brought up, Stan, because so many great ones there.

            And Stormy, that is a great segue back into this conversation around some of the practical implications for space and other protocols that we need to put into place. We had some questions come in, even before the webinar, because the conversation’s out there. Are we going to be having our temperature taken before we walk back into a facility? Will we have physical distancing rules? Will we have to redesign space to allow for that extra distance between occupants? Or will we have to do other things to make our employees feel comfortable being back in that environment? I’m sure you’ve seen some of the videos, some of the articles that are being discussed. What do you envision it looking like? And have you seen anything that maybe we can, again, share with the audience at the end of the webinar, that’s really kind of seeing what this new frontier might look like for all of us?

Stormy Friday (14:32):

I haven’t seen anything that would be our operating guide for the future, again, because I think we’ve all said that in some ways, every day is a new challenge, and we’re trying to figure out what the answer is, as we encounter it. But I think to the point of… As part of what this whole risk is, initially, we need to be doing our posturing. What if, and how do we react? What if everybody coming into a building has to have their temperature taken before they can come through the door? What if we’re going to do immunization testing, as soon as people come to their workstations? What if we have to have a rolling back to work activity?

            And what if, in fact, we decide that we aren’t going to need bricks and mortar, when we used to? What if we determine that we’re going to use technology to a much greater extent than we already have? I think the facilities organization, the facilities folks are going to have to work closely with two organizations that we work with, but even more closely, and that is the whole IT world in our corporate environment, and the health and safety people. In the old days, they all used to be part of facilities. They aren’t as much anymore, but I think that relationship is going to be stronger, as we figure out what the roadmap is going to be in both of those areas for coming back to work.

Mike (16:03):

Absolutely. And Kailash, I want you to kind of extend on this discussion about some of the practical changes that we may have to implement, if they’re not already being implemented. Certainly flexibility, giving employees the option to come in or not. If they have the ability to work from home, maybe that’ll be more of the standard. Have you changed? And have you collaborated with… Because Stormy brings it up, this great idea, we’ve always been pushing collaborations across disciplines, whether it’s working with our HR community, the IT community for some of the technology tools that will assist in these solutions, that we need to kind of be all working together and being on the same page to create this safe environment for people to reenter the workplace. Do you have thoughts on how you’re doing now, and what’s changed, what the future may look like, as far as some of those factors go?

Kylash Ramesh (16:50):

Yes, absolutely. I think this just speaks volumes to the reason why FMs of today’s age and especially the new age, really need a multidisciplinary approach, both at the individual skillset level and across the team. So I think that’s where ProFM has done a really good job at recognizing, acknowledging, and then putting a framework behind that. And that’s, at least from my experience, where I’ve found some advantages or gaps that I’ve been able to fill, in terms of seeing how… Whether it’s facility information systems, things like integrated workplace management or enterprise asset management systems, in addition to the industrial control systems. So using occupancy and automation to both deliver an improved employee experience, but then also we can use that underlying data to make the right decisions about who really needs to be in the office, how far away should these people be sitting, how much extra money is it going to cost us to now have this change of environment, Are we going to have to buy higher cube Heights? There’s a lot of decisions that have to be made. And you can imagine that, if you had a good underlying technology infrastructure with good data sets, standards, business rules, things like that, some of this data gathering that everyone now needs to go through, is going to be easier for some organizations, rather than others.

Mike (18:18):

There you have it, folks. Just a brief excerpt of what was a jam packed hour with Stormy Friday, Stan Mitchell, and Kylash Ramesh. We went on to chat about what the panelists believed would be the near and longterm impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the facility management profession. And we answered a lot of questions from the audience about not just FM protocols and practices, but we explored the human side of this crisis and the emotional toll it is taking on all of us.

            So to watch the entire broadcast, including our webcam videos, please follow the link I have left for you in the show notes. And I know there’s a lot of content out there these days, but I hope you can find some time to continue to stay in touch with me each week, as we broadcast our interactive live stream on Wednesdays, all the webinars I’m doing, the YouTube chats, all of it is put out in the hope of keeping you, our community of podcast listeners, together, as we continue to encourage and inspire each other to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

            You’ve been listening to the Workplace Innovator podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee centric workspace, by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit